As Tears Go By (1988)

As Tears Go By (1988)
Running Time: 102 minutes

Photo Credit: Kino International
Photo Credit: Kino International

Directed by: Wong Kar Wai
Starring: Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Alex Man

As Tears Go By is Wong Kar Wai’s debut film that tells the story of a triad’s member life, Wah (Lau) who is a low-level triad “big brother” who has been bailing and keeping his “little brother” Fly (J. Cheung) out of trouble. Even though Wah has been in the triad for a long time but he lacks the ambition to rise in the ranks. One day, he meets his cousin, Ngor (M. Cheung) from Kowloon and gradually they fall in love with one other causing Wah to think about leaving his current lifestyle as a triad member. However, will he be able to leave it all behind, especially the hot-tempered, Fly?

Photo Credit: Kino International
Photo Credit: Kino International

As Wong Kar Wai’s debut film, I was surprised quite impressed by it, it wasn’t exactly like his later on films, especially those that he is well-known for such a In the Mood for Love and 2046. However, there are still elements and styles that were used or hinted throughout the film such as the focus on two characters per scene, narrations from the main character, dully/colour-lit rooms, freeze frames to specify the importance of the moments, etc. For this film, even though it had quite a significant focus on a triad’s life, but I felt the importance falls onto the themes – love, loyalty, courage, and choices. The storyline though simple and straightforward, but like Wong Kar Wai’s usual stories, there were always hints of melancholy and isolation felt by the characters. Although the love was focused on the characters Wah and Ngor but I was more drawn towards the love between Wah and Fly. It was without a doubt that Jacky Cheung stole almost every scene he was in throughout the film. His performance as a hot-headed, stubborn and proud triad member really stood out when compared to the other performances. Andy Lau and Maggie Cheung delivered equally solid performances.

Overall, the movie stood out to me amongst other triad films, it isn’t the best, but it definitely is in the top of the list. It is a triad film that is more character driven, with some of the added artistic flair that Wong Kar Wai is well known for later on. One could definitely see how Wong Kar Wai’s styles grow and develop into his trademark styles in his later work. I would recommend this film to those who are fans of Wong Kar Wai, Jacky Cheung or Hong Kong triad films.

Rating: 7 out of 10


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